August 22, 2015

To give them meaning

To whom did I send this recently?

"The banal, the quotidian, the obvious, the common, the ordinary, the infra-ordinary, the background noise, the habitual? [...] how are we to speak of these common things, how to track them down, how to flush them out, wrest them from the dross in which they are mired, how to give them meaning, a tongue, to let them, finally, speak of what it is, who we are."

George Perec, Species of Spaces, 1974

A world of quiet

It occurred to me recently how much my relationship to drawing is informed by a deep skepticism about my authority as an author — as an eye, an arbiter of visibilities, a translator of our world.

Why should one thing be chosen over another? What insight can my point of view bring? Are my attempts at beauty — in character, narrative, or form — universal or fair in any respect, and in what ways are they reflective of bias? Is drawing from the real world a kind of aesthetic imperialism?

I draw what I see: but who am I? Who am I to draw? Who am I to see? And what do I see? For many years now I've lived with the understanding that the things that we draw and the way that we draw them are reflective of our innermost selves: our sensitivities and sensibilities, in sensual and social terms. It is no revelation to say that there is a politics of representation, but I find the responsibility too much to bear at times.

When I look back at my body of work, I see happy, gentle faces, characters holding onto the thin belief that everything will be okay. There is a sense of temporality to their existence; and pat resignation. They can be wistful, but aren't sentimental. They are alone.

There are happy dogs, and children in quiet moments; long women, pleasantly occupied, and dense and desolate urban spaces. This is a world of quiet; slow melancholy; soft isolation; summer light, afternoon light. A lot of being in the moment; of wide eyed not knowing. Life passing.

Reading these as a confession, I gather some sense of myself: that I have a flat but optimistic outlook, skeptical but bright, staid and fragile. This is not a world in which one becomes alarmed: rather, one moves through it, softly, slowly.